Sketching is a fundamental step in any design process, and web design is no exception. This post provides some tips on how to sketch and highlights a few of the many reasons why a web designer should take a step back from the computer screen and pull out those old analog tools of pen and paper.

Reasons For Sketching

One of the greatest reasons to start with pen and paper rather than jumping straight to the computer is the elimination of the technological barrier to entry. Simply put: there is no barrier between your physical self and your visualization. There is no menu item to search for, and you’re not limited by the technological inputs of the computer. When working on paper, anything is possible! You’re less likely to be derivative or a lazy designer and take the easy way out (such as using layer styles or filter effects because they are simply easy to use). When working with paper, you must think of your idea first before moving to the computer to further enhance and make it happen.

Additionally, by working small with a pen and paper, you’re able to generate many ideas quickly. This is a key component in all areas of design. By creating small thumbnail sketches, one is able to evaluate numerous ideas and concepts in a very short period of time. Evaluating high level concepts before getting down to the nitty-gritty details of the work will save you a lot of time in the later steps of the production process.

In essence, sketching is thinking made visual. It is incredibly helpful in any design process and it allows one to think about something from numerous perspectives before diving into its execution.

Sketching Tips

When faced with a blank canvas, the possibilities are endless, however, this can also be incredibly intimidating. Here are a few pointers for attacking that blank sheet of paper.

First, sketching is not drawing. The goal here is not a high-fidelity perfect representation of the final design – that’s what Photoshop is for. The goal here is exploring ideas efficiently and effectively. So, strive for quantity over quality but also try for clear drawings. Just don’t get caught up in perfectionism. It’s a balancing act between the clear and quick communication of an idea. As the idea becomes more refined, so too will your mockup. It’s up to personal preference to decide when to move to the computer.

Practice drawing straight lines. The go-to response when discussing drawing with non-designers is that they “cannot even draw a straight line.” Well, no one can do this from birth, but if you practice for an hour or two, you’ll find that you’re much better than you were. Or, if you absolutely need a straight line, you can always use a ruler!

Finally, the materials you use can have a profound impact on your sketches. I find it most helpful to use a cheap ballpoint pen and copy paper when in the idea phase. In working this way, I can make a ton of sketches and use up as much paper and ink as necessary without breaking the bank. Additionally, sketching in ink is recommended for idea generation. Not only will this make you think about your lines before you put pen to paper, but you will also be forced not to put too much time into rendering the idea perfectly. It keeps you fluid and constantly developing ideas.

Final Thoughts

I would encourage everyone involved with making websites – designers and developers alike – to pick up a pen and draw. It can be a lot of fun, and the results can be amazing. I promise you won’t regret the time you put in once you see the incredible value it can bring to your work.